December 8, 2010 / 7:43 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 3-Kia tells U.S. dealers to fix Optima accelerators

* Kia: Optima accelerators could stick, become noisy

* Repair notice on new models sent to US Kia dealers

* Follows massive Toyota recall for pedal glitch (Adds detail on Optima assembly, U.S. market position)

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS) has asked its U.S. dealers to inspect and fix potentially faulty accelerator pedals on the new version of its Optima sedan.

The South Korean automaker said Optima models made between Oct. 16 and Nov. 24 could have sticky or unresponsive accelerator pedals because of a glitch with the spring designed to push the pedal back into position while driving.

The result would be an accelerator pedal that is “noisy” or has “unsatisfactory ... responsiveness while driving,” Kia said in a repair notice to dealers. A copy of the technical service bulletin was obtained by Reuters.

Auto manufacturers use such notices to alert dealer repair operations to potential problems when the companies determine that there is no safety-related issue that would require a recall.

Kia has sold 135 of its 2011 model-year Optima sedans. The just-released model of the mid-sized sedan was redesigned to compete against models such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

A Kia spokesman had no immediate comment. U.S. safety regulators also had no immediate comment.

Kia’s action comes after Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles earlier this year, including the Camry, because of a defective accelerator pedal that could become stuck in the open position while being driven.

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said last week that some of the Camry models covered by that recall could need a secondary repair because of the risk that bolts on the accelerator bracket could be stripped inadvertently by a technician.

Overall, Kia had sold 24,276 Optimas in the United States through November, down nearly 32 percent in 2010 from the prior year. Those figures include the 2011 model year Optima and its predecessor.

The Optima sedan represented about 7.5 percent of Kia’s U.S. sales in 2010 through the first 11 months of the year. Optima accounted for 12.7 percent of Kia’s U.S. sales last year.

The Optima has been sold in South Korea and other markets as the K5 and the Magentis. It was not immediately clear if the accelerator repair would affect vehicles sold outside the United States.

The repair notice sent to Kia’s U.S. dealers said technicians should take note of any “binding” or “unusual noise” in the accelerator when the pedal is pressed and released repeatedly.

In cases where there is a defect, Kia will pay to replace the accelerator pedal assembly under its warranty program.

Kia plans to introduce a hybrid version of the Optima in 2011 using technology it shares with its affiliate, Hyundai Motor Co. (005380.KS)

Separately, Kia has launched two safety recalls for the 2011 model-year Sorento SUV over the past three months. That vehicle, which is classified as a crossover built on a car frame, is being built at Kia’s first North American assembly plant in West Point, Georgia.

The Optima is manufactured in Kia’s Hwasung assembly plant in South Korea and exported to the United States.

Hyundai acquired a controlling interest in Kia in 1997. The two automakers have grown rapidly in the U.S. market in recent years on the strength of new designs and eye-catching advertising.

Kia models from the 1990s and earlier this decade had suffered from a reputation for spotty quality with American consumers. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Kevin Krolicki; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)

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